This year came and went too fast, some would say, but many cinephiles are pleased that at least there wasn’t another Transformers movie attacking theatres and assaulting the senses of moviegoers across the globe.
The bad news is that originality continued to take a nosedive at the box office. Of the nearly 9,000 movies that were released in North America in 2012 alone, only one of the top-10 financially successful ones was original and not part of an extended series. Brave came from the fine people at Pixar, the only movie studio in history that hasn’t lost a dime on any of its productions. They consistently come up with family-friendly movies with high quality computer generated graphics and their stories are superb. I would still watch them even if I didn’t have kids.
Things do not bode well for originality in 2013 either. Anyone remember Premium Rush, Moonrise Kingdom, or The Master? All were highly acclaimed and very well-made movies released in 2012. They had strong directors, interesting visions, excellent and challenging storylines, and fine casts. Among them, there wasn’t a single shapeshifting alien robot monster shooting missiles at other alien robot monsters.
If you combined the total gross revenues of all three of those titles, you would come up with a sum that was about 15 per cent of the gross of the 10th place movie, the aforementioned Brave.
Right at the top of that top-10 list was a movie that did its level best to take advantage of the three things that improve ticket sales. The Avengers made the most of its comic book crossover, being part of an extended series involving other popular characters (Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk and Thor, among others) and kept it all in a PG family friendly framework, ensuring that every 10-year-old boy who had to go see it also had to bring Mom or Dad along too.
That, my friends, is how one movie makes $1.5 billion without breaking a sweat. The other way is to take something that audiences have been waiting and waiting for like The Hobbit – Peter Jackson’s follow-up to The Lord of the Rings – and break that one story up into two parts … and then shuffle it around again and break it up into three parts instead. There, make one movie, sell it three times. Ka-ching!
The other, other way to capitalize upon capitalization is to just take what you’ve already made and add a shiny bow on it, before plopping it right back in theatres. We’ve all seen the coming of past hits being reverse engineered into 3-D for a few years now, so no one was surprised to see the tide swelling with this year’s re-releases of Star Wars Episode I: the Phantom Menace, Titanic, Monsters Inc., and Beauty and the Beast.
The next tsunami is already building up as market forces demand that these oldies but goldies next get the IMAX treatment. We only got a taste of this with Raiders of the Lost Ark but you can bet that there will be more, lots more, in the future.
While all of this rehash is being hashed out, we still get the same old slop with occasional moments of brilliance. For every Zero Dark Thirty or Seven Psychopaths or Magic Mike that comes along, there are several others that are as memorable as last week’s shepherd’s pie leftovers. For every Lincoln, there’s an Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter right there to match wits.
It’s strange that there’s this industry that can command hundreds of millions of dollars for each of its many projects yet more often than not, cares less about quality than about quantity. What was the plot of Battleship? Was Prometheus necessary in the grand scheme of things? And can someone please explain Cloud Atlas so that a five-year-old could understand it?
For most of the real world, those three movies represent almost $440 million U.S. and nothing more.
Still, not all was lost at the multiplex. The ensemble comedy-drama, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, was a sleeper hit that pulled in more than 1,400 per cent of its budget. Not bad for a small story about British retirees in India.
This year was the first in several recent years that didn’t see a new entry in the extended Saw franchise, and audiences were relieved. In its place, there was the latest Paranormal Activity chapter, something reprehensible called The Collection, Piranhas: 3DDD and Chernobyl Diaries to flesh out the poorly populated horror genre. The best of the lot was likely The Cabin in the Woods, a smart and savvy thriller that broke through the fourth wall in a Scream-ish way. It didn’t change the game as much as it should have but it was still important in its own little way.
If you prefer family-friendly fare then Pirates: Band of Misfits might have been more up your alley. Quentin Tarantino just came out with his latest revenge fantasy drama Django Unchained and the reports aren’t quite back yet, but QT rarely disappoints.
Other probable pleasers to catch around this time of year are Les MisĂ©rables, Life of Pi, Promised Land and The Impossible.